For Greens, daughter's memory fuels giving
Christina-Taylor Green Foundation's gift to help build local youth-sports center
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Thursday marked the third annual exhibition game to raise money for the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation at Kino Stadium, and that non-profit organization is giving back.
Before the Cactus League tilt between the Dodgers and Cubs, the Greens presented a $100,000 grant to Southern Arizona Community Sports, which is in the process of constructing a new $6 million center for youth sports.
"We are very proud that, through her foundation, we can keep our daughter's dreams, hopes and memories alive by giving back to others," her father, John Green, said before the brief ceremony.
Christina-Taylor was killed on Jan. 8, 2011, at a nearby Safeway shopping center about a mile from her home. She was there that morning for a Congress on Your Corner event to meet then U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when a man tried to take Gifford's life and then turned his gun on the crowd.
Six people were killed and 13 others wounded, including Giffords, who was shot in the head and is still trying to recover. Christina-Taylor was the only child among the dead. The gunman is in jail for the rest of his life with no chance of parole.
Christina-Taylor was the daughter of John Green, a Dodgers scout, and was the granddaughter of Dallas Green, the long-time big league manager and icon who is a consultant for the Phillies. Roxanna, her mother, was a homemaker, and has since written a book about coping with the experience. Her daughter was 9 years old at the time of her death. Her older brother, Dallas, again threw out the first pitch on Thursday, and there was again a sold-out crowd, this time 11,118.
When the shootings occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., late last year, Roxanna traveled there to offer solace to the families, not once, but twice. She's a top spokesperson for the New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg-led committee, "Mayors Against Illegal Guns."
"And I'll keep doing that until the day I die," she said.
The commitment from this family and community is truly heroic, but to convert an old adage, time doesn't necessarily heal these kind of devastating old wounds.
"I am doing the best I can," Roxanna said. "It's a hard day sometimes. There are good days and bad days. My heart will always be broken. There's a hole in my heart forever, and I will always miss her. This is one thing that you don't heal from. Time does not heal a loss like this. When your daughter is robbed from you -- and I say robbed because it shouldn't have happened. It was senseless.
"But I'm very happy today and I know she's looking down on us with a smiling face, because she was a big baseball fan."
Christina-Taylor was the only girl on her Canyon Del Oro Little League team and had told her parents she wanted to be the first female in the Major Leagues. On Thursday, her No. 12 again hung above the bullpen in left.
Even at her formative age, Christina-Taylor was into student government at Mesa Verde Elementary School, and that was the reason why a neighbor took her that fateful morning to meet Giffords.
Born on Sept. 11, 2001, a day of unspeakable tragedy, Christina-Taylor died under a similar shadow, her mother so often has written and said.
In the immediate wake of this inexplicable horror, the Dodgers, the baseball family and the community at large came together in a show of support that continues today.
"I've known John Green since he was a teenager, and [I've known] his dad for 30 years," said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who worked for Dallas Green when the two were with the Cubs during the 1980s. "When it crosses my mind what occurred, it's something that breaks your heart no matter how far away from that date life gets. That we can play a game and the people of Tucson support it, we've had three consecutive sellouts. As long as I'm in baseball and we train in Arizona, I'll be here."
The first game, coming only a little more than a month after the incident when emotions were still so raw, helped establish the Foundation. Today, it is run out of the dining room of the Green's home north of downtown Tucson. Roxanna is executor and sole employee, so administrative costs are extremely low. The Christina-Taylor Foundation donates almost every penny that's raised for causes that Roxanna hopes her daughter would have been proud to support.
"This means a lot to me and Roxanna. I can't thank the Dodgers and Cubs enough for coming down here," John Green said. "When we lost our daughter, the community of Tucson really got behind us. The Major League Baseball community also got behind us. It really means a lot to us and to the people who lost a piece of their families that day on Jan. 8 two years ago. It's because of things like this that we're able to get through that."
Through the auspices of the Foundation, the Greens have already helped rebuild elementary-school playgrounds and have given scholarships to underprivileged children. On the field before Thursday's game, a symbolic check was presented to Don Tringali, executive director of South Arizona Community Sports, to help build a 40,000-square-foot sports complex in Curtis Park where local kids can play.
John Green said that the foundation earmarks funds for the "Three A's" that were uppermost in Christina-Taylor's life: Athletics, arts and academics.
"Those are things we want to get behind," John Green said. "And the Tucson Padres, I also want to thank them for their fabulous support. As I travel around the country scouting, it's tough for me to pull it together. My wife, myself, my son, Dallas, we have our tough days. We couldn't have done it without you."
At this time next year, though, the Tucson Padres will be no more. This is their last season here. The Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres is slated to move to El Paso, Texas, where a new stadium is being built. That will leave Tucson bereft of baseball, but certainly not this annual memorial game, which will always be a product of the heart.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.